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Narrow Road Volume 7, April 2019

Literary Journal Short Fiction - Poetry - Haibun

Editors Rohini Gupta - Raamesh Gowri Raghavan - Paresh Tiwari

Guest Editor (Haibun) - Rochelle Potkar


A Literary Magazine from India showcasing Flash Fiction, Poetry and Haibun

Volume 7, Apr 2019

Copyright © 2019 All authors and artists

Guest Editor (Haibun): Rochelle Potkar Art (Including Cover) – Aboli Kadam Flash Fiction Editor: Rohini Gupta Poetry Editor: Raamesh Gowri Raghavan Haibun Editor: Paresh Tiwari

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Index

Editorial ..........................................................................................................................................................5 Flash Fiction ...................................................................................................................................................6 Reshmy Warrier, Mumbai ............................................................................................................................7 Stardust ...........................................................................................................................................................7 Suniti Joshi, Mumbai .....................................................................................................................................9 Addiction ........................................................................................................................................................9 Poetry........................................................................................................................................................... 12 Avril Meallem, Jerusalem; Shernaz Wadia, Pune ..................................................................................... 13 HOMELAND − a Tapestry Poem ............................................................................................................ 13 Ishan Sadwelkar, Pune................................................................................................................................ 15 Stuff You Pasted on the Fridge .................................................................................................................. 15 Tejas Modak, Pune ..................................................................................................................................... 16 Experiment .................................................................................................................................................. 16 Skin .............................................................................................................................................................. 17 Daniel de Culla, Burgos.............................................................................................................................. 18 BILLIARDS AND DARTS ...................................................................................................................... 18 Raine Geoghegan, West Sussex ................................................................................................................. 19 The Strawberry Gel..................................................................................................................................... 19 Jagari Mukherjee, Kolkata .......................................................................................................................... 20 On Not Finding An Older Poetry Notebook ............................................................................................ 20 Reshmy Warrier, Mumbai ......................................................................................................................... 21 Supermarket ................................................................................................................................................ 21 Lakshmi Muthukumar, Thane ................................................................................................................... 22 ‘Tis Strange.................................................................................................................................................. 22 Renette Dsouza, Mumbai ........................................................................................................................... 23 Nothingness ................................................................................................................................................. 23 Holly Day, Minneapolis.............................................................................................................................. 24 Have I Got the Strength.............................................................................................................................. 24 Lost Dog ...................................................................................................................................................... 25 Shloka Shankar, Bengaluru ........................................................................................................................ 26 Linear space ................................................................................................................................................ 26 Apocalypse of Silence ................................................................................................................................. 27 Ashish Bihani, Hyderabad ......................................................................................................................... 28 2|Page


माट साब ...................................................................................................................................................... 28 Lecturer Saab .............................................................................................................................................. 30 Kashiana Singh, Chicago ............................................................................................................................ 32 Living across time zones ............................................................................................................................. 32 Haibun......................................................................................................................................................... 33 Miracles ....................................................................................................................................................... 36 Diana Webb ................................................................................................................................................ 36 Desi Cheeseburger ...................................................................................................................................... 37 Ishaan Singh ................................................................................................................................................ 38 Deluge ......................................................................................................................................................... 39 Crossing Paths ............................................................................................................................................. 40 Richard Grahn ............................................................................................................................................ 41 Caterpillar .................................................................................................................................................... 42 K Ramesh .................................................................................................................................................... 42 No Holds Barred ........................................................................................................................................ 43 Putting On Dog ........................................................................................................................................... 44 Gautam Nadkarni ....................................................................................................................................... 44 Naaz vs India ............................................................................................................................................... 45 The Undead Hour ...................................................................................................................................... 46 Raamesh Gowri Raghavan .......................................................................................................................... 46 Holiday Haibun .......................................................................................................................................... 47 Zone of Silence ........................................................................................................................................... 48 Anna Cates .................................................................................................................................................. 48 Nemesis ....................................................................................................................................................... 49 Praniti Gulyani ............................................................................................................................................ 49 Four spoons of sugar................................................................................................................................... 50 Rohan Kevin Broach .................................................................................................................................. 50 Submission Guidelines ............................................................................................................................... 51 Copy Editing................................................................................................................................................ 53 What are we looking for? ........................................................................................................................... 54 Fiction .......................................................................................................................................................... 55 Poetry........................................................................................................................................................... 56 Haibun......................................................................................................................................................... 57 Review.......................................................................................................................................................... 58 Of Orgasms and Food-gasms: Eucalyptus Sextet by Jane Bhandari......................................................... 60 Dr. Lakshmi Muthukumar, Thane ............................................................................................................ 64 Artist in Spotlight ........................................................................................................................................ 65 3|Page


Index of Writers.......................................................................................................................................... 68

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Editorial

Just the other day someone asked me, why on earth would you start a magazine? Isn’t there enough on the web? I could not answer him at that moment, in any way that he would understand. Yes, there is enough out there but also no, there isn’t. Every e-zine has its own character and is unlike every other, we are acquiring a distinct character of our own with our unique mix of poetry, haibun and short stories. No matter how crowded the space of lit mags gets on the internet, there is still room for more, for another voice and another style. From the submissions, it is good to see how many people out there want to write and are not just dreaming about it but putting in the time and effort to write, edit, submit and repeat all over again - and again. Humans have the deep need to express our emotions in poetry, write about our, sometimes traumatic, experiences in haibun and let the imagination soar in fiction. That is why writers are willing to put in the hard labour of writing and that is why there is always room to hear the newest voice on the block, or the oldest one. I think I can say now that the Narrow Road, which was barely more than a cowpath when we began, has widened a little with this, the seventh issue. So, in a world full of roads there is still room for another one, full of good poetry and good haibun and a few good short stories as well. Enjoy reading this rich issue and more power to all the readers and writers out there. Rohini

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Flash Fiction

Untitled (Ink on Paper)

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Reshmy Warrier, Mumbai

Stardust

I knew this would happen. Even when I was glittery eyed about stardom. I wear dark glasses. I try to hide the fact that I have been abandoned. But I watch this changed world from behind it. And it hurts. When the stars are unpinned off your chest, it’s like a part of you is ripped away, skin, blood, ripped away. The high of reaching the skies and then unceremoniously crashing to the ground. Ask a fallen star how it feels. Ask me. It is hard when your life is pieced together by media. But little do they know the pain, the struggle. I'm no longer famous. I'm clicked only after or before. No longer the centre spread. No longer the centre of attention. And still, I haven't forgotten my pride. Through it all, I smile and pout. Now they line up elsewhere. But I can’t forgive Vicky. Ever. Today is his wedding to an upcoming starlet, they say. I drape one of my very many Kanjeevarams. I'm hoping I haven't been clicked in this one yet. Sadly, no one to tell. With my dark glasses on, I walk onto the stage. I'm to wait until they finish a photo op with a politician. Everyone is grinning widely. So am I, adjusting my pallu, looking my resplendent best. Some camera may catch? My session is quicker and awkward. She falls at my feet. I cringe at the age reverence. I want to scream, I'm not that old, ok? I want to scream out at her, you will never see all that I did. Not the high. Not the low. He will please you in bed, oh yes. But he will also leave you one day like a used garment. I feel as though his guilty eyes look away. I leave. I go home. I uncork the bottle and look at myself in the mirror. I'm such a far cry from my photographed self. The public doesn't know me. They have never seen the real me. And, I too crave them to see me in an avataar that's far from real. And when they don't, who gets hurt? This one. This one in the mirror. That's undone. That's unbecoming of royalty. Of stardom. I shatter the mirror with the bottle. I hate what I see. Just then my phone beeps. It's from Vicky: “You looked gorgeous, babe. I chose that saree on your bday seven years back. C ya soon. Xoxo" I rush back to the broken mirror and wipe away the truant lipstick and mascara that had smudged outside their lines from my face. Of course, he still loves me, the silly

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fool that he is. I see pieces of me smiling back, some vain, some beautiful, some outright ugly that I choose to unsee. Just then, my chihuahua comes trotting and starts nuzzling against my leg. Forlorn little pup. I pick her up and pet her. She looks happy already. A little bit of attention is all she needs.

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Suniti Joshi, Mumbai

Addiction

“Bye! Nice meeting you!”, Nana called out from the balcony, waving to the backs of the departing guests. Nice people, he thought. He couldn’t remember when last he had enjoyed a visit so much. ”That went well, didn’t it?” he asked Nani who had started to gather the teacups from the table. “Hmmmm. Too bad they had a wasted trip. Coming all the way from Bhusaval...” Nani said cryptically. She never criticised her husband’s schemes and found them rather amusing. But lately he was getting tiresome. Nana looked a little abashed. “Maybe, but we gave them a good tea and great time, didn’t we?!” “But to call them all the way from Bhusaval… wherever that is, is nothing short of cheating!” Nani protested. “Cheating? We didn’t cheat anybody!” “Yes, we did.” Nani pressed on. “We are running a scam and someday, someone will find out and expose it for what it is. Harmless, I agree, but still a scam!” Nani was unusually vocal today. Maybe that hopeful couple’s journey from Bhusaval bothered her. Nana and Nani had moved to a distant suburb after Nana’s retirement. It was one of those townships that promise a quiet haven far away from the mad rush of the city. It had everything. Gym, jogger’s park, club house, library, a mini theatre, a temple, even Yoga. Initially Nana was happy. But slowly the peace stated to get on his nerves. People have many addictions. Nana got his high from meeting people. Therefore, for the first few years he joined all possible activities in an attempt to meet people. The local chapter of Laughter Club, Music societies, Cultural groups, the bridge club, the works. He even visited hospitals to meet people he barely knew. Nana was a handsome man. At first glance, he impressed everyone and was a welcome guest at every event. But his real problem was, he had no real interest in any of the activities he participated in. In the morning, the Laughter club members, after finishing their daily quota of laughter went their own way. The music society expected some basic interest in music. He found discussions at the book club 9|Page


longwinded. If people wanted to read, they should read, and not hold long discussions about them, according to him. The sad fact was that Nana was a bore. He liked to relate stories and anecdotes about people no one knew, in great detail, and the stories themselves were far from funny. Most of them were about how Nana had bested someone in some argument or situation. He narrated long and complicated jokes and would forget the punchline. As a result, people started to avoid him. All he had to do was to enter the club room and people would remember errands they had to get done right away, or rush home because their wife expected them home early etc, leaving him alone with his drink. This left Nana a lonely and bitter man. He wished he was back in his old office where he had a lot of people to talk to. But now, even they had refused his invitations for drinks and dinner! He frequently expressed his frustration to Nani, who had learnt to nod encouragingly at his rants. She had mastered the vague murmurs and sympathetic expressions early in their marriage. But today she spoke up. “Placing an ad in the matrimonial columns about a boy abroad when we don’t have even a shadow of a nephew – leave alone a real son! If this is not a scam, then I don’t know what is!” she pointed out. “And when the poor parents visit us, hoping for a good match for their daughter, I feel very bad. Especially as you do it just to get people to chat with.” Here Nana interrupted her “But it was a brilliant idea, wasn’t it? When Gokhale mentioned people hounding him with proposals for his son, I thought, why not? Nephew settled in the USA in need of a wife. How was I to know that people will come from Bhusaval?” Nana sounded a little petulant, as if the visitors had played a dirty trick on him by withholding this information. Nani continued doggedly, “All this has to stop now. My BP shoots high every time the phone rings. You have to find a different way to keep busy. I refuse to play hostess to all those visitors.” She gathered rest of the plates and announced, “Now if anyone calls about that mythical nephew, I am going to tell them he came out as gay and recently got married to his boyfriend. That should stop them.” As a last word this was a good one and Nana was silenced. For next few days, Nana was unusually silent. He didn’t go out for his walks and didn’t help Nani around the house as he frequently did. Nani was worried about his silence and wondered if he should visit his doctor, or perhaps even a psychiatrist. This need for people was getting out of hand. In the meanwhile, the calls kept coming. Nani answered them sounding suitably embarrassed and sad, “These boys... one can never guess… it’s the life abroad... away from parents… so sorry,,,”

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Eight or ten days later Nani found Nana scrutinising the furniture closely. He asked, “We have had this sofa for how long? Almost fifteen years – right? Maybe it’s time to get a new one, and a new fridge too. This one has become rather noisy.” Nani protested about the unnecessary expenses as Nana carried on – “I intend to place an ad online, then invite people to come view the furniture, price negotiable!” Nana was jubilant at his new scheme as he went to look for his camera. Nani sighed as she went into the kitchen.

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Poetry

Untitled (Ink on Paper)

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Avril Meallem, Jerusalem; Shernaz Wadia, Pune

HOMELAND − a Tapestry Poem Dispersed among the nations; strangers , always aware of the differences − foreign language, unfamiliar culture, trying to fit in and not be seen as ‘the other’ identity disorientated discrimination always present

The almost two thousand years of my peoples yearning to return to the land of our forefathers, now fulfilled as I walk the streets of their dreams. Avril With life’s relentless ups and downs the winding road lost here, seen there steers the stranger blindly into the night. stumbling, slipping, falling, rising again, his leaden footfalls follow the bends of this extremely alien terrain hopes and dreams like phantoms stalk as round each bend he longs to find the beloved homeland he had to leave behind Shernaz

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Homeland – Tapestry Dispersed among the nations – strangers dealing with life’s relentless ups and downs, trying to fit in, not to be seen as ‘the other’ yet always aware of the differences; foreign languages, winding roads of unfamiliar cultures. Lost there, found here, identity disorientated, they steered blindly into the night, stumbling, slipping, falling, rising again yearning to return to their forefathers’ beloved homeland from which they‘d been uprooted. In the alien terrain, with discrimination ever present like phantoms stalking around each curve, they followed with leaden footfalls the bends of hopes and aspirations for almost two thousand years. Now I walk the streets of their dreams — fulfilled

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Ishan Sadwelkar, Pune

Stuff You Pasted on the Fridge postcard prevents an unknown sea from swaying, the wave inside it frozen midway, a summer memory, that seems to, to move forever ageing it a to-do-list: stained by an invisible fingerprint, pen marks yet to strike-out routined sorrows, soiled sheet music about lives cancelled by routine window sends the sun gleams over cancelled dates shadows friends’ birthdays suffering from sunburn the handle sends back light into an expired kitchen french-press perspires alone recites tales of doves come and gone breeze blows; our freezer flings open ice-cream tub without a lid cold storage you never undid i shut the door feeling cold and come back to the picture of yours the one in which you’ll never be old

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Tejas Modak, Pune

Experiment I’m an alchemical experiment That might work Might not. We could get gold Or something burnt and dark That we’ll make into ink And write with.

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Skin My skin has its own memory of your skin It does not depend on my mind to evoke you. It has its own storehouse Where it keeps the log of your touches It has no sense of right and wrong Of virtue and vice Words like perversion or fixation Mean nothing to it In fact, no words mean anything to it. It merely feels its way through the layers of my life And retains things that have healed it And so, on nights when my mind is in denial Spinning its ineffective web of words and ideas And doing nothing for the hurtful chill inside my being My skin conjures you around me The touch of your fingers The texture of your lips The weight of your body As if you were a living blanket On an existential winter night

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Daniel de Culla, Burgos

BILLIARDS AND DARTS A teacher asks Little James

What balls are those that don’t have hairs And Little James answered quickly: None, teacher, because all the balls And more so those of Villar Have hairs. There was laughter by spoonfuls Like garlic soup In Roa de Duero, Burgos Before corralling bulls. Little students from Aranda de Duero Know this joke very well And always talk of it When they go to the wine cellar And, into the deep of it They touch the balls among them To see which of them Have more grown hair. To who that has the longest hair They sent him to Burgos With free expenses As a prize for competing In a competition of Billiards and Darts To a place called "At Plane", in Gamonal Telling him at the Bus Station Before the car begins to move: - Take care, Villar, you're going to Burgos To compete at Plane One with darts, others with sticks".

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Raine Geoghegan, West Sussex

The Strawberry Gel On warm summer nights they lay on thick blankets looking up at the stars. The door of the vardo left slightly open in case the chavies woke. They would whisper about the time they first met in the strawberry fields. He remembered the blue dress she used to wear, how her hair was braided on top of her head, her sovereign ear rings unlike any he’d ever seen. She would tell him how she was taken by his honest brown eyes and the way he took her hand and said. ‘Shall we go for a stroll Amy?’ He had picked a strawberry for her and it was the sweetest thing she had ever tasted. It was kushti bok that both he and their gel had strawberry marks on their backs. They laughed at how she could never get enough of the fruit. They called her the strawberry gel. Their Phylly, with the corn coloured hair. He yawns loudly. ‘Shush, go t’sleep Alf.’ They both settle down, his hand resting on her hip, her hand on his chest.

Romani words: Vardo – wagon; Chavies – children; Kushti Bok – Good Luck.

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Jagari Mukherjee, Kolkata

On Not Finding An Older Poetry Notebook It had a teal, marble-finish hardcover. Every afternoon, after school hours Its A6 pages absorbed my sighs Over George Harrison and his gently weeping guitar. Bombay has no winter, and the mild November wind blowing from the Arabian Sea Through my bedroom window was The perfect accompaniment to The Beatles' songs or Harrison's solos That played as I composed my own lines, fancying myself Either a 1990s Anne Frank or Shelley the rebel... All of thirteen. I was not sure about God, but George Was My Sweet Lord and I really wanted to see him‌ I have forgotten the titles of my poems Except one -- "Colors From My Guitar" -Where I imagined a candlelit evening In Liverpool, where I'd never be‌

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Reshmy Warrier, Mumbai

Supermarket We stood transfixed, Her palms cupped onto my shoulders, The moment that nudged our memory to all the romantic highs engrained in us, This is it, we would say, but neither of us did, and that was that, And here today, I meet her again, A year since, at the aisle of “Fruits and vegetables”, Wanting that she remember, at least before I say Hello, But no, this is someone else… Far different from the soft, loving eyes I had looked so deep into, A new pair of cold ones now looking straight through me, barely real, As she skeptically picks and scoffs at the oranges Types furiously for some clementines instead, On a brand new “full of her” phone, I realize she is now just an artificially ripened version of a girl, I once loved for real We cross paths, knowingly, unknowingly, As she leaves the supermarket, I stay, an empty trolley.

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Lakshmi Muthukumar, Thane

‘Tis Strange ‘Tis strange how they have invented tiny devices that allow you to listen to your favourite music by cosying up together and yet have named them Splitters! ‘Tis strange how workspaces have become zones where humans don egg shaped headphones and work in silence, shutting it all out, like pilots inside cockpits. ‘Tis strange that device free family dinners are replete with awkward silences and forced smiles punctuated with furtive glances. Seconds spent amid the anxiety of unattended posts, tweets and likes that tell of presences and absences, of identities, created and projected proclaiming who one is and is not. ‘Tis strange that one has to make an effort to dock one’s gadgets to stop staring at screens. So, we charge them just, to reclaim conversations.

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Renette Dsouza, Mumbai

Nothingness Out of nothingness we are created, made whole, Life breathed into us, given a soul; We are but a speck of dirt in this universe, Living our lives as a boon or a curse. Travellers through the portals of time, Cavorting to its rhythm and rhyme; the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms, For from nullity does everything come. If the pages weren't filled with blankness, How would ink spill thoughts onto it with gladness, But everything in life is always left behind, Only memories stay stuck for awhile in the mind. Then memories fade away and all that we possess, Whence blows, the final winds of darkness, And like dandelions we are blown into the wilderness, Back into oblivion, back into...Nothingness.

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Holly Day, Minneapolis

Have I Got the Strength I imagine how it will happen: I’ll be in the kitchen, making a sandwich or in the living room, sorting the mail when I’ll hear him gasping somewhere nearby. I’ll look up and see him clawing at his chest or his throat, a panicked look on his face, before he falls to the floor, silent. This is the moment when I’ll have to decide if I’m going to call for an ambulance or wait to see if he recovers on his own, or just stays down. This is the moment when I’ll find out if I’m the type of person who could let my husband just die if the thought of life insurance payouts and no more arguments about my weight or the credit card bills or the kids or our future is the thing that keeps my hand from picking up the phone if I really am that kind of monster after all of this.

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Lost Dog The parts of my childhood I can remember are disjointed, unsuited for a house or a school or a world made of the stable things I read about all the time in good books. I got lost. I am, even now, certain that each new home won’t be comfortable for long, clinging to the hope that we are suitable hosts for each other’s misery. I tell you home is more than the back seat of a car. Even leaves separate from trees before curling up to die.

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Shloka Shankar, Bengaluru

Linear space is choosing predictability. The world remembers logic is a real thing (for the lost), staring into the shadows of blackness— a need as thin as tissue paper.

Source: A remixed poem composed from select lines and phrases from the introduction and chapters 1, 5 & 12 of Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire.

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Apocalypse of Silence The bones of day eclipse a drowning faith. Broken chimes, a doorway to magic— the dark choreography of winter in the ashes of a blue midnight; a pocket of tricks indexing chaos for free.

Source: A remixed poem composed from select novel titles authored by Seanan McGuire.

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Ashish Bihani, Hyderabad

माट साब १. माट साब छोरा की सकलां दे ख-न या ल ी िन ास छोडी ए आजकाळ का टाबर है िच ो-क काम दे दे वो तो मूंडा िन ेज वे जावे ओर कई न वे वे यांको हगला बेिड़या की फे ी म पी ा ले -ले-न बीड़् याँ बणाई न तो पछे गाँ व जा-न ढाँ ढा टोरी भण लीदा ये गे ा! कोई पूरा खानदान म क-से -ककड़ी न भ नवाब साब सब हा ा जटलमेन बणबा

ो है

अठे तो अं ेज़ी म िफलसाफ़ी िलख रया-न ये अणपढ़ बा घरे जा-न ठे ठ मेवाड़ी म गा ाँ दे ता फरी िहंदी तो ढं ग ऊं आवे कोने याटे ारा िहया म मूत रया भेळा वे-न यहाँ ान की पूजा म जीवण काड िदया पूरा जस-तस ारो घर चाल रयो पण सर ती का दु णा ऊं कदे ई समझोतो न कीदो २. छोरा, य दसोरा ऊं घणो माथो न लगाबो कर जोर जबरद ी का िव ान बण बे ा आखा िज ा म तो लोन ले मे ा-न कोट पट क बना बां डे न नीरे अशो ान कई काम को कोई ऊंच-नीच सब ख़तम कर काडी आपणे तो भाया ढाँ ढा टोर ली ो ओर न तो बेिड़या की फे ी म बीड़् याँ बणा ली ो पण छाती चोड़ी कर-न चालणो

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के खा रया तो बूिकयाँ के जोर ऊं खा रया कीके बाप की उधारी न ले मेली मंगता की ान गोरमट की नोकरी करे तो हरामीपणो आ-ई जावे पछे ऊंचा चढ़-न िकरसा का भाग फोड़ रया आदमी थोड़ी है नरिपशाच है ारो खावे-न ापे -ई पाछो आ-न थूके

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Lecturer Saab 1 Lecturer saab looked at the boys’ faces and let out this long breath These are the kids of modern times give them a little bit of work and their faces go dim No other fate awaits them all will sit with tin counters in Bedia Factories and roll beeris otherwise they’ll go back to their villages and rear cattle These fools will study! Nobody studied a letter in their entire family tree and these princes have set out to become gentlemen! Here we are, writing philosophy in ENGLISH and these illiterates will go home and speak their foul Mewari speech they don’t even know Hindi properly gathered here to piss on my head Here, I dedicated an entire life worshipping knowledge I run my home somehow But never made a pact with the enemies of Saraswati 2 Boy, don’t bang your head too much with that Dashora Hypocrite, sitting there like a scholar He has borrowed from entire district But he won’t come out without a suit on What use is such knowledge done away with all right-wrong it is okay if you have to rear cattle or else roll beeris in Bedia Factories But walk with you chin up that you eat what the might of your arm earns you that you don’t borrow from someone’s father they serve the government like beggars and eventually become a bastard they climb up the ladder and screw over farmers Not human 30 | P a g e


They are cannibal-priests they eat our food and spit it back at us

Translated from Mewari by the author himself.

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Kashiana Singh, Chicago

Living across time zones When death comes to receive my flesh Will that death bell give me options? Will I know how to make that choice? Central time will be practical, least disruptive Pacific time will reflect eagerness, a rushed closure Eastern time could be interesting, night falling sooner Indian standard time is a wise idea, map my death to my birth When death comes to receive my flesh Will my angel sing me a song? Will I know which song will be best for the journey? Spiritual beats may be ideal to usher in the truth Romantic songs will be a good reminder of evenings at home Jingles may lighten up the atmosphere, helpful for shocked children Lullabies are universally liked, and should be a good way to be out to rest When death comes to receive my flesh Remind me to ask him to take my soul too I believe silence will be a good change for both

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Haibun

Untitled (Ink on Paper)

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Guest Editorial

Haibun set me free, as a person with stray epiphanies, as a person inflicted by person and place - to plot whatever could be, in verse. What would we do if we couldn’t curate the ripples on a lake or resonate with the quiver-buzz of dragonflies, or celebrate the irrationalities in human existence? Created out of Basho’s mesmeric chimera of travels, this form un-possesses and unlocks a rite of expressive passage. Say… all my ideas from the little box tumble out, to be driven into prose – explored, experimented with, juxtaposed - not being left like permanent residents in forgotten diaries, or dog-eared notebooks. Somehow if the act of writing is the act of living doubly, airbrushed into scrutiny, domesticated yet wilfully let wild like a house pet, this form has let me hound jagged muses and thunderbolt insights, to exhale phrases, reckon fragments, fearing no minutiae or qualia as I move into the mainstream of living. Celebrating natures of society, world, the intensely personal: saga of the many selves. Anymore, and this will start becoming a serenade to the form, after my book ‘Paper Asylum’, so I come back to draw on what we have for this issue. In Diana Webb’s succinct haibun, we see the measure of brevity, the lightening shaft of realization between believing and disbelief, and the perennial question of gods that lie beneath stones, woken by faith, watched by keen onlookers. Ishaan Singh is a young haibuneer, who has explored the homecoming of a son settled abroad, recultured to a foreign land, where every exchange of food, wear, décor bring out stark combat to old things and time. Richard Grahn’s urge to collage aging aches with a one-time solution is seraphic genius. Something on the wish-list of many, I suppose. Aging becoming a crucial muse as we coalesce its inevitability in hilarious sometimes morose realizations. The secretive life of a chrysalis makes K. Ramesh’s haibun a highly-philosophical and refreshing piece. One of the most uplifting one on the labour of lives. The cumulative distress that makes us. The dharma of a caterpillar. The karma of a butterfly. And the faith in the unbecoming-phases that are outwardly ugly, inwardly divine. Misanthropic feelings are tucked into Gautam Nadkarni’s pieces. Nadkarni has always amused with his work. I teach his unforgettable senryu at my poetry workshops to nodding resonance from new readers. spring cleaning– this futile search for my lost youth 34 | P a g e


His acerbic realization of a haphazard asymmetrical society, where all humans are animals with traits reminds me of a story I was working on, on the defence mechanisms our beast friends share with us. The millworker of grist. The doughmaker of grim. The zest of zen. The way Nadkarni, in his signature style weaves ‘Putting on Dog’, is inspiring and postmodernist. Nothing is hara-kiri, nothing haraam. And subverting the news headlines, topicality jargon, and pigeonholes stuffed with stereotypes, thus creating new stereotypes, we have Raamesh Gowri Raghavan’s humour as a necessary pigment to this navarasa gallery of April haibun. The surprise of Anna Cates' work is that she dismantles fables to delectable fallacies whether they are real-world holidays or mythical stories. And Praniti Gulyani is a young haibuneer with panoramic political vision. It is most interesting to see the next generation of haibuneers emerge from the dedicated nurturing by the earlier generation. Succinct imagery, sensory and stark, of Rohan Kevin Broach’s piece I like his risk in format, the free fall of free-verse punctuated with refrains, against the backdrop of chess to an endpoint of poignance. While every haibun in this issue provides glimpses of an old life unfurling into new, my overarching thought lies trapped with the chrysalis, still evoking remembrance of its Taoist parable. Maybe I should go read some more of those parables, while you enjoy this section, and the whole issue. Adieu, Rochelle Potkar Post script: I thank the editors of Narrow Road: Paresh Tiwari, Rohini Gupta, and Raamesh Gowri Raghavan for graciously inviting me to this guest-editorship.

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Miracles

Can a statue weep real tears? I have heard the eyes of a statue of the Virgin Mary at intervals grow moist and overflow

torrential rain cheeks of the stone Buddha dry as a bone

Diana Webb

lives in Leatherhead, Surrey, UK. She edits the haiku journal Time Haiku. Her work has been widely published. In the past she has won both the Genjuan haibun contest and also the British Haiku Society award in the haibun section.

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Desi Cheeseburger

Dear Traveller, We are extremely happy to welcome you… within these walls where you grew – many-a-sun risen and perished. Welcome Home. Here, Grandma stitched this warm sweater for you. Oh, I forgot. You’ve travelled all the way from within the belittling heights of skyscrapers, where people eat with a fork and knife and the smell of aloo gobhi is replaced by the sizzle of grilled potatoes. Oh yes, I agree, the warmth of these market-bought sweaters is fantastic. Welcome Home. Here, wear a jacket. Oops, it slipped out of my mind, you’ve flown your way from an enlarged snow globe. This light evening breeze: must be insignificant for you. Welcome Home. Here, a plate of seviyaan... Oh, I forgot, you’re used to noodles served in high-end hotels with fancy names, fancier furniture, sleek wooden tables, and chairs upholstered in silk. Welcome Home. You complain about the scraped walls and the paint chipping off, the leftover blotches of red and pink, a clumsy sketch of a house overlooking a garden and a river flowing behind. . . on the living room walls, which you made as a 2-year-old, not having the slightest knowledge of how to use a crayon. You complain that we don’t fix it, don’t whitewash the walls and conceal these marks you left with some expensive coat… I don’t blame you. You’re used to clean walls with expensive shades of paint. This must disgust you. Welcome Home. I give you a firki for the baby. But you step away. It’s local, I say, nothing expensive. Exactly. The baby only prefers Lego and Superman action figures from Hamleys, you say? Welcome Home. I hope you had a nice stay.

trampoline... jumping up to pluck the stars

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Ishaan Singh

is a 14-year-old student, studying in DPS RK Puram. A passionate poet, he has developed a new love for haikai literature and wishes to delve in it further. A feminist at heart, Ishaan loves nature walks in his free time. He also loves animals.

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Deluge

On the therapist's couch, I wonder aloud what it would be like to bundle all the pain I’ve ever experienced together with any future pains, to feel them all at once and be done with it. I mean everything, from the hangnails, slivers, cuts, and bruises, to the pain of lost relationships and death. I think how overwhelming it would be, how completely unbearable. Still, if getting it all over in one great rush was possible, would it be worth it or would it kill me?

a river overflows its banks . . . silence

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Crossing Paths

no moon . . . I take a breath of silence

I’m in the mountains of West Virginia, dead-set to cross them before daybreak. Problem is, I need a ride and they appear to be in short supply. Finally, a pair of headlights navigating slowly through the falling snow. I stick out my freezing thumb but to no avail. The car eases by. 30 minutes later . . . my ride arrives, two men in a beat-up station wagon. I climb into the backseat without hesitation. We make the usual hitchhiking small talk. I tell them I’m headed to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, returning from Christmas leave. They seem to like my military status. “You’re lucky we came along,” the driver quips. “We help the police patrol these roads for hitchhikers. It’s dangerous out here.”

chilly wind . . . that knowing grin in the rearview mirror

I study the rough face of the burly driver for a moment as I envision my body being dumped alongside the road. The skinny fellow in the passenger’s seat, chuckles. He passes something to the driver then turns around to look at me. “You want some moonshine?” he asks. “It’ll warm you up. There’s a jar under the seat.” Oh boy, I’m in a car with a couple of drunks who think they work for the police. I fumble under the seat and pull out the jar. The first sip burns my throat. The car continues on into the coal black night. “Our turnoff's just ahead,” one says. “but we’ll take you to the next town where it’ll be easier to get a ride.” I thank them, welcoming the thought of civilization. Our conversation ambles as the liquor begins to warm my body. We talk about the military, patriotism and our love of freedom. We have a lot in common it seems.

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Arriving in town, it appears deserted. The two men talk between themselves. Finally, the driver declares that they will take me a little further, to a better spot. Not wanting to step back out into the cold just now, I agree. Each stop breeds a similar conversation and result, just a little bit further. All through the night, we travel. Three-quarters of the way through the jar, I finally spot the welcoming glow of Charleston in the twilight.

going home . . . only my shadow knows where I’ve been

Richard Grahn

is an American poet/artist born in Wisconsin in 1959, currently living in Evanston, Ilinois. He has travelled extensively and has been writing and creating art for over 30 years. He started writing short-form and prose poetry in earnest in 2016 as an outlet for coping with illness.

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Caterpillar

you are the butterfly And I the dreaming heart Of Chuang-tzu -Basho

As if its only purpose in life is to eat, a caterpillar devours green leaves. Looking at it, you wouldn’t imagine the light, spectacular life form, that will come off as if from a miniature art book. Does a caterpillar dream of migrating over fields, rivers and mountains? Within the deceptive silence of the chrysalis creation occurs. Where does it get the symmetric whirls of colour on both wings? The new-born butterfly has to simply take off to flutter around, flitting here and there and over the blue ocean. I ask myself whether the butterfly will still have memories of its previous self-a green caterpillar, crawling gingerly-without which of course, it wouldn’t be here.

deep blue hills in the distance... chrysalis

K Ramesh

writes haiku, tanka, and free verse. His poems have appeared in Indian and International journals that cater to free verse and Japanese forms of poetry. Some of his works have been included in the following anthologies: 1. One Hundred Years of haiku published by the Norton Press. 2. Voices For The Future (A collection of poems brought out by Poetry Society India and British Council Division) 3. Wild Flowers, New Leaves: World Haiku Anthology 4. Montage #24: Haiku Around The World (The Haiku Foundation, 2009) Books published: 1. Soap Bubbles (Red Moon Press, Virginia, USA, 2007) 2. from pebble to pebble: a haiku and tanka collection with Irish translation published by Authorspress India. 3. Little Friend, a collection of poems published by Nivasini Publishers, Hyderabad. He teaches at Pathashaala, a J Krishnamurti Foundation school located near Chengelpet.

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No Holds Barred

When I visited the zoo at age ten, I never thought I would take to it like I did. The tiger in the cage pacing from end to end reminded me of our grumpy neighbour. The retired army colonel who lived on the ground floor and was always dreaming up new and novel methods to give us kids a hard time. The way he objected to our playing cricket in the front yard because he couldn’t stand the sledging. The parakeets tittering in their enclosures at once brought to mind our maid who kept up a constant chatter with the other maids or anybody else unfortunate enough to be within hearing range. The chimpanzee who grimaced at me looked so much like my friend Raju that I was tempted to pat him on the back to cheer him up. The same sad eyes. The same glum expression. You’d look glum too if you were bunged behind bars for nothing. I even found my Hindi teacher there. In the avatar of a crocodile. The entire place was so much like home. Gee, I never ever realized about the world that there is a whole zoo out there.

stolen tanker... the police still questioning the pickpocket

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Putting On Dog

When my newly acquired friend Mario asked me over to his apartment for tea I pulled on a rumpled t-shirt and distressed jeans and drove over. It was with a jaunty step that I entered his pad and sank thankfully into a large armchair in his living room when my sensitive ears picked up a growl. One of those subdued growls that precede the lunge of a man-eating tiger. I looked at Mario with no little surprise. I mean, I knew he spoke several languages and dialects, but this was new to me. And then my eyes travelled downward to a nasty looking canine who seemed to be all teeth. Seeing my alarm Mario brushed aside the affair with a laugh. He assured me Devil was just being amiable. Nevertheless, I eyed the critter with reservations as he continued slavering at the mouth and sharpening his fangs. Preliminary, no doubt, to sinking them into my neck and ripping out the jugular. It was only when I flung cream crackers at him a few minutes later that the little beast accepted my friend request like a true facebook fiend. And all along I had a feeling that he looked familiar. I could have sworn I had seen the little monster before. Then it struck me. He looked remarkably like my boss. Minus the hornrimmed glasses and the handlebar moustache, of course. I was positive he shared a common lineage with my employer. It is all in the genes I am told.

unsocial media--my facebook friends conspire to ignore my posts

Gautam Nadkarni

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Naaz vs India

"Mom, Dad, I need to tell you something honestly." "Haan, bolo." "I know this might hurt your feelings..." "Nahin, nahin... Now whatever it is, say it." "I've been trying to muster the courage for it for so many years." "Theek hai. Now say it." "I first came to know when I was in 7th or 8th." "Oh!" "But I was very confused. But slowly, slowly, I am now sure..." "Oh well..." "I know Mom has great hopes for her future bahu." "Arre come to the point, beta." "Maybe you expect it of your future grandchild too." "Oh my God!" "But Mom, Dad, if not today, when..." "Well, son, we've always suspected you were like that. Son, but we will love you nevertheless." "I was like what Dad? I just wanted to tell you that I never liked bhindi after all!"

hey little frog do your flies taste of mother's love?

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The Undead Hour

The bus moves only in terms of inches per hour. I keep the window shut in spite of the August humidity. The number of ramshackle lorries and intercity coaches belching soot is well above the PPM of whatever substances the PPM of shouldn't be higher than. The rickshaws spew mostly abuse, and the occasional blood red stream of paan. Everyone's eyeing a place to sit; chivalry truly needs a higher level of stamina than a boss-battered commuter can provide. The lighting in the bus struggles to overcome the melancholy of the dusk sky; the honking simply adds to the diesel fume-induced headache. Only the college couple bubbling over with jejune romance seems alive.

flying home in V formation — silhouettes

Raamesh Gowri Raghavan

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Holiday Haibun

nutmeg scent a pecan succumbs to the nutcracker

Thanksgiving. We overcook the turkey again. I propose that next year we opt for chicken instead, baked or fried. Or maybe Cornish hens. Each person will get their own bird . . .

the bite of white meat I manage to swallow— dry leaves

Instead, duck ends up on the table. Duck . . . After wading through the grease to pick some meat off the scrawny-looking thing, last year’s dry turkey doesn’t seem so bad.

airport farewell— red leaves cling to the trees

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Zone of Silence

It is myth that one can charm a dragon. I read the tale of Lord Zephyrus, who tried to tempt one with a pair of undies, unwashed and scented with his lover’s sex . . . The undies tasted good, as did Lord Zephyrus.

a quetzal’s red stash where the quiet buzzes the mystery tingles

Anna Cates

is a graduate of Indiana State University (M.A. English and Ph.D. Curriculum & Instruction/English) and National University (M.F.A. Creative Writing). Her first collections of poetry and fiction, The Meaning of Life and The Frog King, were published by Cyberwit Press, and her second poetry collection, The Darkroom, by Prolific Press. She lives in Ohio with her two beautiful kitties and teaches education and English online. Cates’ Amazon homepage is https://www.amazon.com/A.Cates/e/B006TGBCT2.

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Nemesis

I decide to give the old soldier a glass of milk. It isn't a big deal… I pour a mug of full cream and set it to warm. Then I sprinkle the right amount of cardamom... I place it on a tray with three oatmeal cookies… I walk towards his room. Pushing open the deep, yellow door, I hear the darkness crackle beneath my shoes. The room is silent. I put on the light and place the mug on his foot-table. There is a clinking sound which resonates. Almost instantly I prepare to leave. . . ‘Gunshot!’ he cries, the emptiness in his eyes alit with new-found fire. He raises his trembling fingers towards me. ‘Didn't you hear the sound? Oh, foolish one! Truly imbecile! Bring me my gun! Didn't you hear the enemy shoot at us? We must prepare for war!’ ‘But, there's no war!’ I hold his wispy hands that feel like soft shadows in my strong grasp. ‘You are in your room, warm and secure. ‘I assure you, there is no war!’ "But, I see them... " says the old soldier, his gaze encompassed in a glassy cage of tears. He has this steely assurance in his eyes, as he looks at a specific spot on the wall. His gaze is so strong, it seems metallic. Suddenly, I begin to see them as well. The smoke from the hurled fire bombs makes me cough.

cloudy skies... wondering who left this umbrella behind

Praniti Gulyani

is a 15-year-old girl, from New Delhi. She has a deep interest in haikai poetry, and credits all her publications, to her gurus, Miss Kala Ramesh, Mr Paresh Tiwari, Mr Gautam Nadkarni who brought her into the field of haiku and haibun, and have constantly been there for her. She aspires to become an author soon.

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Four spoons of sugar

It is a dry afternoon. Beads of sweat form on our foreheads. Dadu is breathing slowly, as if almost in deep sleep. He makes his move. Queen takes Bishop. There's absolute silence in the room. Heart beating, slowly, steadily. He faces a counter attack. Rook takes the Queen. After much anticipation, the moment arrives. The doctor emerges out of the ICU.

whatever remains of the unfinished tea — checkmate

Rohan Kevin Broach

is a third-year, B.Tech CSE student from Delhi. He is a filmmaker, photographer, poet, and web-designer, among many other things. He loves to solve Rubik's cubes, make puns, and eat Biryani in his free time. He is also the Co-Founder of R2NB Reel, a company which shoots films, music videos, documentaries, events, and photos.

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Submission Guidelines

Untitled (Acrylic on Canvas)

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Narrow Road Literary Magazine is a triannual journal published in April, August and December. It focusses on flash fiction, poetry and haibun. The first edition of the journal, which you have been reading was invite only. However, from the second edition we are open to unsolicited submissions and will read your works during the following periods: June 1 - July 15 for the August Issue. Oct 1 - Nov 15 for the December Issue. Feb 1 - Mar 15 for the April Issue. All flash fiction pieces, poems and haibun (works) submitted for publication will undergo a review by editors of the individual genres. It will take approximately a month for them to notify you whether your submission has been accepted, accepted subject to revisions, or not accepted. Please be aware that at times, our editors may be unavailable for short periods, so there could be delays in getting back to you. Time constraints and the voluntary nature of editors' roles restrict editors from corresponding in any depth with writers whose work has not been accepted. We like to keep the communication lines clear and simple. But please do follow the following guidelines. Please remember all submissions are subject to these guidelines. 1) You may submit up to three pieces in a single submission during any one submission period. 2) You may only submit work that is not under consideration by other publications. Works posted on closed Internet discussion forums or on personal web sites that are not publication sites will be considered, and so will previously published works, provided you inform us of the publication venue and date. If accepted, the said work will be noted as previously published. 4) Once a work is accepted, we reserve the right to publish the work in the next issue of Narrow Road, and in any associated annual print or online journals or anthologies. 5) Narrow Road retains first rights for all works that appear in this journal for the first time. This means that if your work is subsequently published elsewhere, that publication must cite Narrow Road as the place of original publication. 6) Please do include your Name and your place of residence in the mail that you send us. Submission Procedures are as follows. 1) Submissions are to be sent to individual editors on narrowroad.mag@gmail.com . The editor for each genre are listed below: 52 | P a g e


a)

Flash Fiction – Rohini Gupta

b)

Poetry –Raamesh Gowri Raghavan

c)

Haibun – Paresh Tiwari

2) Your subject line should contain your name, the title(s) of your works, the genre you are submitting for and the date. Send separate emails for separate genres, it makes the editors’ lives a wee bit more worth living. We request you to paste your work directly into the body of the email, unless the concrete structure of your work requires you to put it in a word doc or pdf. In this case please do mention in your mail that you want your work to appear in the form you have sent. Copy Editing

All work accepted will be copy (not content) edited. As for changes in content, once a piece has been accepted and formatted for the journal, we will not accept content changes except under unusual circumstances. We look forward to your works.

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What are we looking for?

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Fiction

Flash fiction is very short fiction which can range anywhere from 6 words to 1000 words. It's called flash because it can be read easily in a few minutes. It is also called quick fiction, short-short, micro fiction, sudden fiction, smoke long fiction or postcard fiction. The only difference between short stories and flash fiction is the length. In this magazine, we are looking for stories of no more than 1000 words. There is no minimum length. If you can tell a story in very few words, go for it. The shorter your story (if it fulfils the criteria of a story), the better your chance of getting it accepted. However, the maximum length is fixed. Which means 1000 and below is okay but 1001 and above is not. Edit carefully and check word length before sending it in. Within the 1000 words we are looking for a complete story with a beginning, a middle and an end, at least one character, some action or movement and preferably, some dialogue. A story can be defined as - a character facing a problem, acting to resolve it and reaching some kind of completion at the end. There must be movement and progress in the story. The ending can be of any kind – a happy or unhappy ending. A twist or a surprise or even an ambiguous ending provided it seems natural and not contrived.

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Poetry

There are as many definitions of poetry as there are poets. Wordsworth defined poetry as "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings;" Emily Dickinson said, "If I read a book and it makes my body so cold no fire ever can warm me, I know that is poetry;" and Dylan Thomas defined poetry this way: "Poetry is what makes me laugh or cry or yawn, what makes my toenails twinkle, what makes me want to do this or that or nothing." Poetry is a lot of things to a lot of people. And we at Narrow Road will not attempt to tell you what that is, since we are not that sure either. But yes, we not look at unnecessarily1 rhyming words very kindly. We have chosen to discard shape poems altogether. The journal changes many hands during the typesetting and compilation process, and it is a nightmare to maintain shape, as binge-eaters on holidays will readily affirm. We must therefore ask you not to submit shape poems or those with finicky alignments, or accept the rough and ready corseting we will perpetrate by left-aligning everything we select.

1

Go ahead and send a villanelle, sonnet or any other form poetry if you’re confident of getting the meter and rhythm right, alongside the rhyme.

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Haibun

Haibun is a prose poem that uses embedded haiku to enhance the composition’s overall resonance and effect. And that’s all that we will leave you with. English language haibun is an evolving and highly complex form of writing and if we start delving into the various definitions, do’s and don’ts, is and isn’t, we may never be able to enjoy what the form may stand for. The fourteen haibun contained in this first issue would give you a fair idea of what we are looking for. Surprise us, move us, shock us, just do not maintain the status quo. As for the haiku in the haibun, we believe it to be an integral part of the composition. It should move the story forward or take the narrative in a different direction. It may add insight or another dimension to the prose, resolve the conflict in an unpredictable way, or may question the resolution of the prose.

It’s perfectly fine with us if the haiku does not work as a standalone piece of poetry, if it makes sense in the overall narrative and follows the other aesthetics of a haiku, we are open to it. But, yes 5-7-5 is usually not a haiku.

Happy Writing!

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Review

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Of Orgasms and Food-gasms: Eucalyptus Sextet by Jane Bhandari Through a close reading of selected poems from the inimitable Jane Bhandari’s latest collection entitled Eucalyptus Sextet, which features the revirginated widow as the sassy persona, this review heroes a bold attempt at resisting patriarchal Indian conventions that have, for centuries, regulated how a widow should lead her life. I must reflect on my sins, renounce the loves of this life. It is the custom. Today I ate red meat and then lay in bed waiting for desire to happen. But I felt the same as always. Simultaneously reflective, witty, candid and imbued with a sadness that speaks of a deep personal loss, the extract from the poem quoted above, provocatively titled ‘Red Meat’, talks of a ‘food’-gasmic experience prohibited for widows by patriarchal conventions. Food has often been used as a metaphor to visibly curb the sexuality of a widow by Indian, specifically, Hindu patriarchy. A widow is usually expected to relinquish food items that excite carnal desire. The broad spectrum of items she consciously crosses off her menu includes onion, garlic and red meat amongst other gastronomic delights. The extract reproduced above and indeed, the entire collection, bears testimony to the troubled relationship that the widow, as a figure, has had with the history of feminism in India. As a woman whose life is marked by the death of her husband and lover, the widow is perceived as a person who would now need not just public protection but also discipline and surveillance. She is expected to change the way she wears her hair, her clothes, her jewellery, her eating habits, her social circuit, just about everything. It is interesting how established patriarchal conventions expect the widow to start planning pilgrimages, eat satvik, bland food, and lead, for all practical purposes the life of a woman who requires the protective custody of a society that views the death of a husband as a schismatic and definitive moment in her life. On the other hand, a widower who also suffers, and sometimes, more acutely, the bereavement of his wife, has no such scrutiny or surveillance happening in his life. He can happily munch on his onions, garlic and red meat without a care! In Jane Bhandari’s hands, the widowed woman’s body becomes a site that houses unspoken desires which are boldly voiced through 76 poems that celebrate life itself. Born in Edinburgh in 1944, Jane Bhandari has lived in India for over 50 years. She has published two collections of poetry – Single Bed and Aquarius – and two collections of short stories for children – The Round Square Chappati and The Long Thin Jungle. She has been included in three Sahitya Akademi anthologies among others, and has edited her husband’s biography of his father, the late Madan Puri, My Father the Villain. She used to co-ordinate Loquations, a Mumbai poetry reading group. Her latest collection Eucalyptus Sextet, the third volume of poetry she has produced, cocks 60 | P a g e


a snook at redundant and regressive social practices by questioning them. Her poems bring to the fore the inane, outdated and illogical nature of patriarchal norms and assumptions that have for centuries been followed by widows, not just because the men of the household demand it of them but also because the women of the household insist on it. Social conditioning denies her not just the right to have sex anymore but also the right to celebrate life and her personhood. The collection begins with the segment titled “Loss and Memories”. The poems in this particular section express the isolation that accompanies loss through images that are starkly poetic, honest and nuanced. ‘Graffiti’ is a case in point: To deny now that we shared a life simply because you are gone, to not remember, is inexcusable. And even if our relationship had lasted only a few weeks, it would still leave marks, ineradicable graffiti scrawled on the walls of my mind. The second section titled “Itch” poignantly expresses how a middle aged woman’s body, senses and sexuality cope with loneliness and bereavement. The first poem in this segment, ‘The Open Ground of Middle Age’, speaks for the entire collection in a way. It articulates the dilemma of a middle aged widow who is unable to negotiate the choices she is faced with at this critical juncture of her life, post-widowhood. Should she enjoy the freedom that is suddenly hers to relish now that life has suddenly become truly free? Should she revel in the freedom from having to orbit around a male head and partner and face the resulting loneliness stoically? Now that her routine can really be hers to plan without having to work her way round a partner’s or a family, can she handle the empty bed and nest? The title is suggestive and metaphorically images the vast expanse of time, space and choices that greet the middle aged widow after her bereavement. ‘The Open Ground of Middle Age’ is a must read: Here is the paradox – while writing, there is another lack. My bed is empty. Yet I do not want my old life back. It is gone forever, a lost horizon. I stand exposed, at the very centre of the open ground of middle age, not wishing old chains to anchor me, because I know I will cease to grow. ‘A Bed Too Wide’ tackles the problems of loneliness and acknowledged the deliberate repression of sexuality.

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I become like stone to still the trembling of my thighs that must be content with imaginings. The poem, ‘The Itch’ is a memory of a love that has mutated into a poem at the hands of this woman who is also a writer. The title is suggestive of a creative artist’s restlessness that prompts her to create verse even as she relives a fond memory finding a use for it even as it is recollected: The best was that morning flavoured with delight: After a night spent drinking your body I arose to write it down before I lost the savour and you slept, not knowing I had turned satisfaction into a number of words. The typical matrimonial column in a Sunday newspaper and the Obituary section makes ‘I Hope He Died Happy’ a memorable one especially for its ironic ending. when I tire of celibacy to insert an ad of my own, requesting young men to apply… But they have such delicate egos. What makes the reader sit up and take notice of, in this collection, is the fact that it articulates something no one else is talking about. A middle aged widow’s candour about sex and the decisions she has to make post widowhood, after having compromised for the better part of her life to a father’s, husband’s, brother’s or son’s lifestyle. Suddenly, she has to make choices that gape at her, revisit her values and a social conditioning that make her question the need to come to terms with her own sexuality. ‘Thoughts of Adultery’ is a telling example. When you reach that dangerous age your mind may turn to thoughts of adultery, a little experimentation to relieve the boredom of a settled life. 62 | P a g e


The third segment is significantly called ‘Awakening’. The poem ‘Red Meat’ mentioned earlier belongs to this section along with six other eminently readable ones. If this section revisions the figure of the widow as a revirginated woman, poems such as ‘Erotica’ from the section titled ‘Disappointment’ and ‘Padma and the Candles’ from the section titled ‘Itch’ are explicitly sexual and nuanced. The pillow seems to be quite a favourite metaphor with the poet and becomes the centre of attention in ‘Partner in Bed’. But I must say your silence bores me. You never answer back. You always yield. Softness is your virtue. and if with age you become thin and floppy, no matterI shall simply buy another pillow and discard you without thinking. The sections that follow chart the widow’s journey through ‘Bus-Stop Blues’, disappointment, discovery and finally experimentation mingled with self-reflexivity and doubt. ‘Bus-stop Blues’ is an interesting example of city poetry which celebrates personhood and problematizes the simplistic assumption that widows must necessarily be easy prey or that widows have unsound judgement while also negotiating loneliness as a situation challenging enough to acknowledge. A scathing critique of attempts at objectifying the widowed persona who is also a poet, accosts the reader in ‘Unwanted Man’. This man has no allure: He waves away my poems like an unwanted bus. All he is waiting for is a chance to hop aboard and grind me into bed. My personal favourite is the section titled ‘Discovery’. The segment showcases Jane Bhandari at her best. Imbued with humour that is concurrently honest and reflective, the poems in this section are superb as contemporary urban verse. ‘Look, A Frog’ highlights the perils of experimentation wittily: To find a prince you have to kiss an awful lot of frogs. Some were even toads, too repulsive to kiss: but believe me this is the best way to tell 63 | P a g e


if your frog will be a prince, or just another frog. Another superb poem is ‘Smoke’ which is reminiscent of the moral policing of Mumbai city and its spaces, as the extract cited below illustrates: …and you longed, longed to kiss her palm, could only inhale the smell of the smoke in her hair as you walked, because of a bye-law that says you may not kiss, may not sit facing the sea, can only walk together and eat peanuts, slowly, one at a time, to make them and this moment last a little longer. The set of six poems titled ‘Eucalyptus Sextet’ form the core of the collection. The title clearly takes off from the word sestet used in the context of a typical Petrarchan sonnet to mean a six line stanza and the reference to the eucalyptus underscores the acrid yet simultaneously therapeutic nature of the essential oil which is probably what the analogy with sex obliquely refers to. But when the old tree fell I knew that this was the end. Now I must tell you that I have planted a sapling and am waiting for it to grow. On the whole, the collection is certainly an entertaining read which makes one reflect on the pathos of the revirginated middle aged widow’s situation while also showcasing possibilities of dynamism and resistance. Published by Bombaykala Books in 2018, Eucalyptus Sextet by Jane Bhandari definitely offers a good read. Through a variety of forms that include the lyric, the ode and the haiku the poems sketch a dynamic that is at once irreverent and self-reflexive.

Dr. Lakshmi Muthukumar, Thane

Is Head, Department of English, SIES College of Arts, Science and Commerce, Sion West, Mumbai – 400022

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Artist in Spotlight

Etching (Aquatint Print of 5)

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Aboli Kadam, Pune

Aboli Kadam is a young visual artist residing and working in Pune, India. She has a BFA in Painting (First Class with Distinction) Mumbai University. She explores mediums such as drawing, painting, printmaking and site-specific art installation as part of her studio practice. Painting for Aboli is the manifestation of her subtle inner world. In this inward journey her sensitivity and sensibility towards the colours, forms and space observed and experienced form a medium of discovering the elusive Inmost. Inspired by Nature her paintings and drawings are a sublimation of sensations, instinct and feeling in exploring the Innermost. She has been exhibiting her works both nationally and internationally. Her recent Solo show ‘ANUNAAD-Resonance’ was on display at Artists’ Centre Art Gallery, Mumbai. Her paintings were part of the 89th AIFACS Exhibition, 123rd The Bombay Art Society Exhibition. Her Silkscreen Prints and Etchings were selected for IX BIMPE Federation Gallery Exhibit Canada, Mini Print International Cadaques Spain amongst others. Recently her site-specific art installation in Bamboo were displayed in Pune Biennale. Many of her paintings are part of private art collections in India and abroad. The artist can be contacted via abolikadam@gmail.com | www.abolikadam.com

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Index of Writers

Aboli Kadam, Pune, 67 Anna Cates, Wilmington, 48 Ashish Bihani, Hyderabad, 31 Avril Meallem, Jerusalem, 14 Daniel de Culla, Burgos, 18 Diana Webb, Surrey, 36 Gautam Nadkarni, Mumbai, 44 Holly Day, Minneapolis, 25 Ishaan Singh, Delhi, 38 Ishan Sadwelkar, Pune, 15 Jagari Mukherjee, Kolkata, 20 K Ramesh, Chengelpet, 42 Kashiana Singh, Chicago, 32

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Lakshmi Muthukumar, Thane, 22, 64 Praniti Gulyani, New Delhi, 49 Raamesh Gowri Raghavan, Thane, 46 Raine Geoghegan, West Sussex, 19 Renette Dsouza, Mumbai, 23 Reshmy Warrier, Mumbai, 8. 21 Richard Grahn, Evanston, 41 Rochelle Potkar, Mumbai, 35 Rohan Kevin Broach, Delhi, 50 Shernaz Wadia, Pune, 14 Shloka Shankar, Bengaluru, 27 Suniti Joshi, Mumbai, 11 Tejas Modak, Pune, 16, 17


Aham Brahmasmi (Bamboo Installation) Aboli Kadam

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Profile for Narrow Road

Narrow Road (Vol 7) - Apr 19  

'Narrow Road' is a triannual Indian e-magazine showcasing flash-fiction, poetry, haibun and art-work from all over the world.

Narrow Road (Vol 7) - Apr 19  

'Narrow Road' is a triannual Indian e-magazine showcasing flash-fiction, poetry, haibun and art-work from all over the world.

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